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Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Catholic Civil Aviation Pastoral Directives


I. Introduction
II. Pastoral Care of Civil Aviation
III. The Airport Chapel
IV. Structure
V. The Catholic Airport Chaplaincy
VI. Permanent Formation of Airoport Chaplaincy Team Members
VII. Associations of Civil Aviation Pastoral Agents


Because the Church is a mother, she feels a great concern for the welfare of all her children. She therefore sees to it that no one is excluded from her motherly care. The Pastoral Care of Civil Aviation is her arm embracing those who cannot benefit from her normal care in the parishes because of their airline or airport related occupation.

The present Directives aim to describe the ministry that the Catholic Church wishes to carry out in the field of Civil Aviation. It is addressed to Catholic Civil Aviation chaplains, pastoral agents and their collaborators.

Airport presence and ministry can be summarized in the two greatest commandments of the "love of God" and "love of neighbour" in their individual and collective expressions. Thus, they do not require a detailed description.

The airport chapel and liturgy, on the other hand, have to respect precise indications according to the existing norms in the Catholic Church. To ensure clarity and facilitate the observance of these norms, care has been taken to define what is to be done in any foreseeable situation where doubt may arise.

In many international airports, the Catholic chaplain works side by side with other Christian chaplains. To make this collaboration more effective and free from vague interpretations, it is necessary to define the identity of the Catholic Civil Aviation chaplain and the members of the Catholic chaplaincy. It is also imperative to ensure that they undertake the essential formation and preparation for the apostolate.

Dear Civil Aviation chaplains, pastoral agents and chaplaincy members, let your apostolic zeal and love be genuinely expressed by applying these directives faithfully in your pastoral activity. Only the Holy Spirit knows what He has in store for you and all those who are entrusted to your care.

God loves you.

                                               Archbishop Giovanni Cheli

The Vatican, 14 March 1995 (top)

I. Introduction

1.Travel in today's society is marked by modern technology. The aircraft allows people to cover greater distances in less time.

2. Along with all the benefits accompanying airline related jobs, difficulties and problems are inevitable. Air crews are often far away from home. Airport staff and service workers observe long or unusual working hours. Needless to say, such situations strongly affect their family and social life. Under these circumstances it is difficult for airline and airport personnel and workers to make use of the usual pastoral structures offered by the Church for their Christian growth.

3. Passengers, who may have to wait for a long time in an airport, should he offered the possibility of experiencing a profound encounter with Christ. (top)

II. Pastoral Care of Civil Aviation

Nature and Aims

4. The Pastoral Care of Civil Aviation is an aspect of the Church's responsibility toward her faithful and a participation in her universal mission to proclaim the Good News to all people, in the specific context of the world of Civil Aviation.

So as not to deprive anyone of the Message of Salvation, the Church reaches out to all those who, "because of the circumstances of their lives, cannot sufficiently avail themselves of the ordinary pastoral care or are even totally deprived of it”[1]. Among them are "all those who are employed or give their services at the airport or on airplanes”[2]. When necessary or opportune, this pastoral care is extended to“passengers”[3].


5.    Civil Aviation ministry is specifically directed to all air crew members, including those on training, ground personnel, airport personnel and service workers, workers in airport‑based services catering to airline or passenger needs. When necessity demands or usefulness requires it, the ministry is also directed to passengers and to special categories like refugees in airport holding centers, stranded people, homeless people taking refuge in the airport, and the like.

6. Indirectly, this includes contact with the families of the aforementioned categories. Similarly, contact is to be kept with all those who, in the past, have been connected in any way with Civil Aviation, especially those who have spent a long period of their life serving in this field, and are presently retired.

7. While pastoral care provided in an airport by each Church and ecclesial Community is directed to its own faithful, there are certain situations in which Civil Aviation ministry may address the religious needs of Christian people more effectively when pastoral agents, ordained or lay, from different Churches and ecclesial Communities work together ecumenically[4].

8. Summing up, Civil Aviation ministry is directed to all those who, in one way or another, belong to the Civil Aviation community, either permanently or temporarily, regardless of nationality, religious creed or culture, with special attention given to those among them who are poorest, underprivileged, suffering or marginalized[5].

Airport Presence and Ministry


9. The first and irreplaceable form of discharging the airport ministry is witnessing through the very life of the individual Christian and of the Christian community. People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers[6].

Individual Christian witness

10. "Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him" (Jn 14, 23). If Christians are faithful to the Lord’s teachings, and in spite of all their human limitations and defects, they strive to take Christ as the model of their lives, then they will be "a sign of God and of transcendent realities”[7].

In Civil Aviation apostolate this is the most accessible way of being a missionary. This way of living includes discharging one’s functions such that in this particular milieu, all human and Gospel values like justice, peace and love are promoted and the rights of the poor, the powerless and the suffering defended.

Witness of a Christian community

11. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in midst of them" (Mt 18,20). It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples" (Jn 13,35). Two or more Christians in an airport can bear witness to being Christ's disciples if they love one another.

Members of the Christian community in an airport further bear witness to being Christ's disciples by being ready to help one another morally and/or materially, according to the demands of the circumstances. They share this mutual love and support with all those around them, thus giving a collective Christian witness.

Expressions of Christian witness

12. Individual and collective Christian witness will take many forms and various expressions. They are not necessarily the same for every airport or Civil Aviation ambience given the different social and cultural contexts in which each one is situated. If Civil Aviation apostolate is to be in a position to offer Christ to all and be a leavenof the airport society, it must be immersed in the life, problems and contingent situation of the specific environment in which it operates[8].

13. In giving Christian witness, cooperation with pastoral agents from other Churches and ecclesial Communities is recommended[9]. Christians are also encouraged to collaborate with other believers and all persons of goodwill.


14. a. Like any ministry in the Church, Civil Aviation apostolate has the duty of proclaiming Christ and His Gospel to all peoples[10]. Since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, reading, studying, explaining and living them is an integral part of airport ministry[11].

b. Because they strive to be a witness to Christ through their lives, Christians engaged in Civil Aviation apostolate may announce the Good News through their words, writings and all other opportunities offered by the modern means ofcommunication.


         15. To be able to give witness and to proclaim Christ, it is necessary to be present at the airport. God's grace working in   the heart of an individual may bring about a desire to communicate with someone who understands. Given the          singular situation in which a person may find himself in an airport, the presence and availability of someone right there could be a unique chance for that person to have an encounter  with God. (top)

III. The Airport Chapel

16.The airport’s spiritual heart, where Christ speaks intimately to people in silence, is the chapel[12].

Catholic Chapel

17. The Catholic airport chapel is canonically a church, meaning a sacred place "intended for divine worship, to which the faithful have right of access for the exercise, especially the public exercise, of divine worship"[13].

18. Being a sacred place, the chapel must be used only for those things which serve to exercise or promote worship, piety and religion[14]. For social activities and gatherings, a chaplaincy office or another locale should be used.

19. a. In airports with a Catholic chapel, the Blessed Sacrament should be reserved. This is to give anyone, at any time, the chance to be in the presence of Jesus Christ himselfwho has chosen to remain perpetually on earth, under the species of bread and wine, in the Holy Eucharist.

b. The tabernacle bearing the Blessed Sacrament should be given a place that is truly prominent in the chapel, suitably adorned and conducive to prayer. It should also be given the greatest security against any danger of profanation[15].

c. Where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, there must always be someone who is responsible for it, and as far as possible a priest is to celebrate Mass there at least twice a month[16].

Shared Christian Chapel

20. Sharing an airport chapel with other Christian Churches and ecclesial Communities should be done only after due consultations with the appropriate respective authorities concerned to seek out possibilities for lawful reciprocity according to the doctrine and traditions of each denomination[17].

21. In a shared chapel, Catholics must show a sincere respect for the liturgical and sacramental discipline of other Churches and ecclesial Communities. These, in turn, are asked to have the same respect for Catholic discipline[18].

Interfaith Chapel

22. If considered opportune and facilities are sufficient, in addition to a Christian Chapel, a space could be made available to different faith communities as an interfaith chapel. Canonically not a church, an interfaith chapel may take the form of a meditation room. The sacred texts of different religions could be made available. Respect on the part of Catholics and other Christians for the different traditions is paramount. Likewise, the same respect for the Christian religion is expected. Consultation with the religious leaders of the various communities would be appropriate.

23. a. If there can be only an interfaith chapel in the airport, a portable altar should be available for the celebration of the Eucharist. It could be placed at the side of the room, to be brought into the center at the time of celebration. Other material for celebration could be located in an adjacent room functioning as a sacristy.

b. Since the Blessed Sacrament may be reserved only in a canonically sacred place, this would be inappropriate in an interfaith chapel[19].


24. The airport chapel should be easily accessible to the airport population, properly indicated through the use of conventional signs. Its ideal location is in the space between the general public area and the zone open only to those who have passed through border checks, with entrances from both sides. Obviously, the necessary precautions should be taken to ensure proper security measures, e.g. an unbreakable glass wall between the two areas.

Liturgical celebrations and related services

25. Frequent liturgical celebrations in the airport are encouraged and are regulated according to the existing norms of the Catholic Church.

26. Since the celebration of the Eucharist on the Lord's Day is the foundation and centre of the whole liturgical year, on Sundays and days of precept, the faithful are obliged to assist at Mass[20]. On those days, the sacrament of the Eucharist should be celebrated at least once at the airport to allow the airport faithful to assemble and listen to the Word of God, take part in the Paschal Mystery, and fulfil their obligation. On Sundays and days of precept, there is no substitute for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Hence, the Eucharistic celebration cannot be replaced by an ecumenical service[21].

27. If, for valid reasons no priest is available on Sundays or days of precept, it is advisable to make arrangements for the Eucharistic celebration on the evening of the previous day during which the obligation of assisting at Mass is satisfied[22].

28. Daily celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist is highly recommended.

29. Besides posting the schedule of liturgical services held in the chapel in suitable areas at the airport, announcing the Eucharistic celebration through the public address system is a useful method of communicating with passengers and others who pass through the airport and are not familiar with its routine.

30. The celebration of the Liturgy of the Word celebrated in accordance with the provisions laid down by the diocesan Bishop, followed by the distribution of Holy Communion, is encouraged. More so, when no priest is available on Sundays or days of precept[23]. A deacon or a minister of the Eucharist should preside over the celebration.

31. In situations and times other than Sundays and days of precept, the official prayer of a Church may be celebrated in the form of an ecumenical service specially prepared for the occasion. Participation in such celebrations as Morning or Evening prayer, special vigils etc., will enable people of different liturgical traditions ‑ Catholic, Eastern, Anglican and Protestant ‑ to understand each other's community prayer better and to share more deeply in traditions which often have developed from common roots[24].

32. Bible services are encouraged.

33. Given the international character of airports, it is recommended that multi‑lingual liturgical texts be made available to all those who attend liturgical services.

34. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Apostolic See and, as provided by law, on the diocesan bishop. Therefore, no other person, not even a priest may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on a personal initiative[25].

35. Although it is not strictly necessary to fulfil religious obligations in a consecrated area, every effort should be made to celebrate the liturgy in a chapel[26].

Funeral chapel

36. The mortal remains of persons who die away from their homelands and are flown back to their countries arrive in the cargo area of the airport. The funeral of a deceased member of the faithful should normally be celebrated in a church or an oratory[27]. Should circumstances require the celebration of funeral rites at the airport, this must take place in the chapel.

Since the airport chapel is often inaccessible for this purpose, it is recommended that a funeral chapel be set up elsewhere, even in the cargo area. (top)

IV. Structure

37. It is the faculty of the diocesan Bishop to choose the appropriate pastoral structure for Civil Aviation apostolate in his diocese, according to the characteristics and needs of the specific airport and Civil Aviation community.

38. a. This ecclesial structure should participate and be incorporated fully in the life of the particular Church. It must be a versatile instrument in a unified action, the direction of which personally pertains to the diocesan bishop who is endowed with the primary pastoral responsibility in his diocese[28].

      b. It is the responsibility of the diocesan bishop to include the ministry in the field of Civil Aviation in the pastoral plan of the diocese, to give support to the airport chaplains and other pastoral agents operating in this field, and to see to it that all pastoral agents are properly trained for this ministry.

39. Pastoral care in airports located in territories of more than one diocese is to be decided and agreed upon by the Bishops concerned.

40. Civil Aviation apostolate should be included among the areas of concern of the Episcopal Commission that monitors the Pastoral Care of Human Mobility in the Episcopal Conferences, just as the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People monitors the Pastoral Care of Civil Aviation worldwide.


41. An option in the pastoral care of Civil Aviation is the establishment of a "missio cum cura animarum" which may be attached to a territorial parish[29].

42. The most usual form adopted in airports is the airport chaplaincy, entrusted to the care of the airport chaplain who is appointed by the local Ordinary "for those who, because of their condition of life, are not able to avail themselves of the ordinary care of parish priests"[30].

43. Where no priest is available for the institution of a chaplaincy, the diocesan bishop may entrust the pastoral care of Civil Aviation to a deacon, a non‑ordained religious or a lay person who however cannot exercise the functions proper only to an ordained cleric. (top)

V. The Catholic Airport Chaplaincy

44.The Civil Aviation chaplaincy has the following members: a chaplain, associate and/or assistant chaplain(s), if any, assisted by pastoral worker(s), social and office associates and/or assistants.

Civil Aviation Chaplain

45. a. The Civil Aviation chaplain is a priest to whom the pastoral care of the Catholic faithful in the world of Civil Aviation is entrusted in a stable manner. He is appointed by the local Ordinary[31] and is to enjoy the same status as all other priests in the diocese.

b. He should be given all the faculties necessary for the pastoral care of Civil Aviation. By virtue of his office, he has the faculty to hear confessions of the faithful entrusted to his care, to preach the word of God to them, to administer the anointing of the sick and Holy Viaticum, and to confer the sacrament of confirmation when they are in danger of death[32].

c.In the exercise of his pastoral office, the chaplain is to maintain due relationship with the parish priests[33].

d. A Civil Aviation chaplain may exercise part‑time airport ministry and have another assignment.

e. If the Civil Aviation chaplain does not exercise full‑time airport ministry, a pastoral worker may be appointed as chaplaincy administrator.

Civil Aviation Associate or Assistant Chaplain

46. The Civil Aviation chaplain may have associate or assistant chaplain(s) if the pastoral work in the airport so requires. The associate or assistant chaplain is also appointed by the local Ordinary.

Civil Aviation Pastoral Worker

47. a. The Civil Aviation pastoral worker is a Catholic deacon, religious or lay person appointed by the local Ordinary for ministry in the world of Civil Aviation.

b. He/She discharges pastoral functions such as: being at the service of the liturgy, spreading the Word of God particularly through catechetical instruction, explanation and defense of Christian principles and their correct application to the problems of our times, accomplishing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

c. In cases wherein no priest is available for the appointment of a chaplain, the local Bishop may entrust the pastoral care of Civil Aviation to him/her, although he/she may not discharge the functions reserved only to an ordained priest.

Civil Aviation Social Associates or Assistants

48. Civil Aviation social associates or assistants are religious or lay people, not necessarily Catholics, including experts in lay professions, who assist the chaplain or pastoral worker in the discharge of social and related services such as: assistance to the poor and the sick, aid for the alleviation of all kinds of human needs, defense of the rights of Civil Aviation workers.

Civil Aviation Office Associates or Assistants

49. Office associates or assistants of the chaplaincy give support to the chaplain and/or the pastoral worker by performing office functions like publishing bulletins, accounting duties, reception and secretarial work, filing, and the like.

50. The involvement of retired Civil Aviation personnel, who are familiar with the environment and have time at their disposal, in the activities of the Civil Aviation chaplaincy is highly recommended.

51. All members of the Civil Aviation chaplaincy must be known for their integrity and concern for all those who are entrusted even temporarily to their care. The knowledge of foreign languages is desirable. Proficiency in English is an asset. (top)

VI. Permanent Formation of the Members of the Airport Chaplaincy

Spiritual Formation

52. Members of the chaplaincy, both ordained and lay, must strive to live the calling to holiness of life and perfection of love if they are to be credible and worthy to proclaim the Good News[34]. Adequate spiritual formation is therefore necessary.

53. They also need to be constantly updated on the current developments in the life and teachings of the Church.

54. To achieve these aims, various possibilities are available.

a.Well‑planned days of recollection and retreats could be given to Civil Aviation chaplaincy workers operating in one or more airports.

b. Publicationsthat provide food for growth in spiritual life and instruct on the developments in the Magisterium of the Church are to be made available to Civil Aviation chaplaincy workers.

c. Pilgrimagesand other initiatives that foster spiritual growth are encouraged.

d. Coursesin all branches of ecclesial study would be helpful.

Training in the Apostolate

55. Civil Aviation chaplaincy workers, clergy or lay people, are to be introduced to the apostolate by means of a thorough knowledge of these pastoral directives. A training course for this purpose is encouraged.

56. The training of candidates to the priesthood in seminaries should include fundamental education in Civil Aviation apostolate within the context of the Pastoral Care of Human Mobility.

57. It is recommended that newly appointed Civil Aviation chaplains who are to replace outgoing chaplains serve with the latter for a period of time, three months if possible, before taking over.

58. It is likewise recommended that newly appointed Civil Aviation chaplains who are to serve m newly established chaplaincies get field training in a stable and well‑established chaplaincy, through a collaboration with the chaplain for at least three months, or as needed.

59. Pastoral workers are to be properly and formally trained for the pastoral functions they are to perform. For example, ministers of the Eucharist should be trained in the properly instituted fora of the diocese; catechists should be trained in catechetical institutions.

60. Pastoral workers and social associates and assistants should be instructed in the true meaning and value of temporal goods, both in themselves and in their relation to all the aims of the human person[35].

61. To ensure true ecumenism and proper inter‑religious dialogue, those engaged in Civil Aviation apostolate should be provided with sufficient information on other Churches and ecclesial communities as well as on other religions, and the

62. The International Seminars organized by the Civil Aviation Apostolate Section of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People are regularly-held meetings which aim to and continuing formation and the specific needs of their followers.

63. World Congresses on the Pastoral Care of Civil Aviation assess pastoral needs, offer suggestions and encourage those who are involved in or are affected by Civil Aviation to give Christian witness in their own milieu, as well as to be committed to active apostolate in the field. (top)

VII. Associations of Civil Aviation

64.Civil Aviation chaplains and chaplaincy members may form national associations for fraternal sharing, encouragement and support. Such a bond will also be beneficial to those who travel from one airport to another within the country.

65. Similarly, they may get organized regionally both for camaraderie and mutual spiritual and material support, as well as for benefit of those who travel across national frontiers. (top)

Vatican City 1995

[1] Cf.Code of Canon Law (CCL), §Can. 383 § 1, 568, 771 § 1.
[2] Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus (PB), 150 § 3.
[3] Pontifical Commission on Migration and Tourism, Letter to Episcopal Conferences Church and People on the Move (CPM), 2.
[4] Cf. Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (ED), 204.
[5] Cf Encyclical of Pope John Paul II Redemptoris Missio (RM), 42.
[6] Ibid.
[7] RM, 42.
[8] Cf. Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (GS),40.
[9] Cf. ED, 204.
[10] Cf. RM 3; 16, 20.
[11] Cf Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum (DV), 23‑25.
[12] Cf. Pope John Paul II on World Air Transport Day, 10 December 1991, Fiumicino Airport.
[13] CCI, Can. 1214.
[14] CCI, Can. 1210.
[15] Cf. CCI, Can. 938 §§ 2,3.
[16] Cf. CCI, Can. 934 § 2.
[17] Cf . ED, 106.
[18] Cf ED, 107.
[19] Cf CCI, Can. 934 § 1.
[20] CCI, Can. 1246.
[21] Cf. ED 115.
[22] CCI, Can. 1248 § 1.
[23] Cf. CCL, Can. 1248 § 2.
[24] Cf. ED, 117.
[25] Cf. CCI, Can, 838, 846.
[26] Cf. CCI, Can. 932.
[27] Cf. CCI, Can. 1177, 1179.
[28] Cf. CCI, Can. 381.
[29] Cf. Congregation for Bishops, Instructio De pastorali migratorum cura (DIMC), 33 §§ 2‑3.
[30] CCI, Can. 568.
[31] CCI, Can. 564‑565.
[32] Cf. CCI, Can. 566 § 1.
[33] CCI, Can. 571.
[34] Cf. Dogimatic Constitution Lumen Gentium (LG), 40; RM, 42.
[35] Cf. Conciliar Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem (AA), 31.